Ecosystem Explorations: Connecting an ecology field experience to the classroomby: Kristen L. Gunckel

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

The Ecosystem Explorations curriculum includes eleven classroom lessons. The lessons are divided into two sections—Understanding Ecosystems and Human Connections to Ecosystems. The curriculum incorporates scientific inquiry skills, cooperative learning situations, writing-to-learn activities, interdisciplinary lessons, and student materials printed in English and Spanish. This article describes how this curriculum helped students build a conceptual framework prior to participating in a field experience and better understand how humans depend on and impact the ecosystem.

  • Elementary
Publication Date

Community ActivitySaved in 545 Libraries

Reviews (5)
  • on Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:43 AM

The article depicts the importance of front-loading information to students before a fieldtrip so that they can benefit more from the experience. In this particular fieldtrip the students went to The Sandia Mountain Natural History Center (SMNHC) in New Mexico, where the students could explore the native environment while learning basic ecological concepts. In order for the students to truly benefit educationally from the trip they were introduced to lessons prior to the trip to help students build a conceptual framework before they participated in the field experience. This was done so that students could better integrate their field discoveries while at the mountain preserve into their own understandings. The article also illustrates how activities after the fieldtrip are also important in creating a strong conceptual framework. What I like about this article and what I believe teachers could find beneficial are the activities that the article shares. What I found helpful was the reasoning behind each activity and the sequence which the activities were completed. Each activity is constructed upon their previous understanding, so each is activity is a natural progression which I believe helps the students build a solid conceptual framework.


  • on Sat Feb 02, 2019 6:00 PM

This article describes lessons that can extend learning for before and after visiting an ecological field trip. Before the field trip the class focused on the basic ecosystem concepts. Students used a version of tag to play an Energy Game. The students role-played the different parts of the ecosystem. Each student was a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, and sun. Lima Beans were their energy bundles. The students are using their prior knowledge and adding new knowledge while playing the game. The game can be discussed in the class to see if they should add additional roles of the ecosystem to improve the model. Students will enjoy this game and helps to teach the parts of an ecosystem. Another activity the students create an ecosystem using a two- liter bottle. They used the scientific process to observe the ecosystem model. This a great article to help the students to understand the basic concepts of an ecosystem.


  • on Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:19 PM

This article describes how an environmental center created pre- and post-field trip activities to reinforce their Ecosystem Explorations curriculum. Prior to the field trip, the class engaged in various activities to introduce basic ecosystem concepts, journal writing, as well as inquiry. One activity that was a version of freeze-tag called The Energy Game. Each student role-played a part of the ecosystem (herbivore, carnivore, sun, etc.) and received a certain number of energy bundles (lima beans) depending on his/her role. By playing the Energy Game and then making changes to the model, students are building on their previous knowledge gained through personal experience. This game sounds like it would be something kids would really enjoy! Good article, good suggestions for classroom activities before a field trip to introduce ecological concepts.

Kathy Sparrow  (Delray Beach, FL)
Kathy Sparrow (Delray Beach, FL)

  • on Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:01 PM

This article presents some great instructional activities that will extend learning before and after an ecological field trip. The activities range from active games, to reflective literary compositions. The energy web game was developed from an adaptation of the freeze game, using lima beans to represent bundles of energy that flow through the ecosystem. The game also can be discussed by the class to see if additional ecosystem roles should be included to improve the model. In a second hands-on activity, students create an ecosystem model in a 2-liter bottle. Students incorporate their model int o an application of the scientific process, and observe the ecosystem models over time. In the third activity students combine hands-on investigation with literacy for a very well-rounded lesson about natural resources.

Angelika Fairweather  (Bradenton, FL)
Angelika Fairweather (Bradenton, FL)

  • on Tue May 03, 2011 6:17 PM

The articles describes a series of lessons used for pre-post ecological field trips. The activities described are flexible enough to adapt not only for elementary trips but for trips for older students as well. The lessons highlight literacy activities but also helping students to identify their own misconceptions and to change those concepts to reflect the real world. I especially liked the idea of using a game to show energy transfer through an ecosystem - I do something like this but not as well and I look forward to incorporating the authors suggestions this year to see how it works with my middle level students.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

Free - NSTA Members

$1.29 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.